This Is How A Super League Happens
Author's Note: These were going up over on Minds, but after two days of fighting with their stupid Captcha verification to get this to go up, I'm done. So, I'm moving them back to the regular blog. I think they're probably going to be an 'every other week' thing and I'll try and move topics around a bit so I'm not all in politics or one particular topic so people don't click away. Hopefully, you get some enjoyment out of reading these...
Out there in the world of college football's commentariat, there are prophets of doom that say a Super League is coming. Television executives will dismember the traditional conferences still further and break away with the top thirty 'brands' and make them into their own league, leaving the rest of college football adrift in the wilderness, bereft of the ludicrous paydays and lucrative money that a Super League would presumably bring.
I have been skeptical of the concept. I've never been able to see how a Super League happens, or, more to the point, is successful. The SEC is too bound to regional culture, the B1G is too bound to academics, and try as I might, I can't see people getting excited about Auburn playing Penn State on a Saturday in October the way they get excited for Auburn playing Alabama or Penn State playing Michigan. In an expanded playoff, I can absolutely see people getting excited for Alabama versus UCS or Penn State versus LSU-- there are stakes on the line. They're playing for a National Title. People will tune into that. People will watch that. People will care about that. Some antiseptic Super League that's destroyed existing rivalries in the name of a money grab? I'm not convinced.
But then, Michigan happened. I'm not plugged in enough to online CFB culture to truly enjoy the schadenfreude of Michigan discovering that they are, in fact, just like everyone else. I am aware- even the most casual fans of the sport will be aware of Michigan and their sacred construct of 'The Michigan Man'. Michigan has higher ideals. Michigan has higher standards. Michigan should be America's Team. It's why Michigan is better than you. All of that is why I always enjoy it when Iowa beats Michigan in just about any sport, because these opportunities tend to be few and far between, because by and large, they're right. They usually are better than almost everyone else.
Turns out they've been kind of cheating this whole time? Some staffer by the name of Connor Stalions went like full deployment, disguises, and everything and stole just about everybody's signs over the course of the past couple of years. He also wrote a 600-page manifesto on his vision for the Michigan football program that- and I don't know if it's leaked, I haven't looked- but someone needs to leak that. I want to see that. I want to marvel at that. My most recent book was, as the kids say, 'thicc' but it wasn't 600 pages long!
But it gets weird after that. Do teams know each other's signs? The consensus seems to be that yes, they do. Shit gets quietly passed around between teams. Mike Leach famously left a fake play where Texas could conveniently find it before a Red River Shootout. It does happen-- whether it should have happened on the scale that Michigan appears to have seems to be the question and whether or not they gained any competitive advantage from it also seems to be in question.
All of this, however, put Newish B1G Commissioner Tony Petitti in a bad spot. I'm now very curious: how many schools were demanding action from the Commissioner? Was it all of them? Was it a few of them? Was it a deputation headed by the School Down South? The B1G's action- of suspending Harbaugh for three games, seems preemptive, given the NCAA hasn't weighed in yet, but everyone also knows the NCAA will take years to weigh in on this because they move it at a snail's pace. If a Commissioner is confronted by thirteen out of his fourteen schools saying, "Hey, man, you gotta do something about this," then he doesn't really have much of a choice in the matter.
I think Petitti made the only move he could and hopefully, the dust will settle- a B1G Championship and a potential National Title will probably be balms that heal all wounds- but I'm sure some Michigan fans will neither forgive nor forget. Would a Commissioner who's been there a while have done better? Maybe. But again, it would require us to know what the dynamics of the conference discussions actually were. If 13 out of 14 were ready to raise the Black Flag and mount the barricades over this, that's one thing. If 7 were mounting the barricades and 6 were just sort of grumbly about it, there might have been a needle that could have been threaded there- but we are highly unlikely to know for sure.
I think the right move here was to suspend Harbaugh for one game, not three but also announce that the Conference would be evaluating any and all allegations about sign-stealing from other schools as well. The bigger opportunity is to push for headset comms-- which high school and professional football allow, but for some insane reason, college doesn't-- so we can make this a non-issue and never speak of it ever again going forward.
But this is how a Super League happens. I can sort of see it now. I'm not saying Michigan is all that and a bag of chips, but they are a 'brand' and if enough 'brands' get their underwear in a bunch, the prospect of leaving the peasants behind and forming their own Super League might have more appeal than we think it does.
I am convinced of two things: one is that the FCS playoff is two (big, complicated but not impossible) moves away from being way more of a money maker than anyone realizes. And two, even if the playoff doesn't get that far beyond twelve teams (let's say we stop at sixteen), it's going to make obscene amounts of money for all the right people. I'm talking about Scrooge McDuck's swimming pool amounts of money. And if there's one thing that could preempt a Super League at minimum, if not prevent one full stop, it's obscene amounts of money.
But then again, if there's one thing that fuels college football, it's monumentally stupid shit happening. After all, Texas A&M is going to pay Jimbo Fisher more than seventy million dollars not to coach their football team anymore. Michigan being mad enough about their loopy sign-stealing operation to bolg the B1G for a Super League? I don't think it's all that likely, but it's college football, so it's not impossible either.